Undertow by Jahnavi Barua – Book Review

“Undertow” by Jahnavi Barua is a captivating family saga that delves into the themes of love, kinship, and loss across three generations. Set against the backdrop of Assam’s tumultuous state politics, the novel centres around a powerful mother-daughter relationship that serves as the centrepiece of the narrative.

Diving into Plot

In the beginning, we witness Rukmini Goswami’s rebellious choice as she marries Alex, a Christian from Kerala, against her mother’s wishes. Supported by her father, Torun, Rukmini faces relentless criticism from her mother, Usha. The strained relationship leads to Rukmini’s expulsion from the family, branding her a traitor. Embracing the unknown, she embarks on a transformative journey to Bangalore.

Fast forward 25 years later, Rukmini’s daughter, Loya Alex, returns to Guwahati from Bangalore for closure. Driven by an insatiable restlessness, Loya’s academic pursuit intertwines with her desire to unravel the truth behind her mother’s estrangement. Exploring the Kaziranga sanctuary for her PhD thesis, Loya delves into her mother’s past work, hoping to find answers amidst changed landscapes and altered circumstances. Joined by her grandfather, their shared journey takes an unexpected turn. Will it offer a chance to rebuild familial bonds and unmask startling revelations?

Undertow Review

Undertow by Janhavi Barua is a captivating novel that takes us on an emotional journey through the lives of its characters. The author’s ability to depict complex human emotions is truly remarkable.

One of the strengths of Undertow lies in its evocative descriptions of the natural surroundings. Barua’s vivid imagery brings the settings to life, whether it’s the lush landscapes of Assam or the tranquil beauty of the Brahmaputra River. The detailed and immersive descriptions create a strong sense of place, making the reader feel as if they are right there alongside the characters.

Through her skilful storytelling, Barua delves deep into the hearts and minds of her characters, making them feel incredibly real and relatable. The struggles, joys, and inner conflicts they experience are portrayed with such authenticity.

The narrative structure of the book is another noteworthy aspect. The story unfolds in a non-linear fashion, with flashbacks and shifts in time that add depth and layers to the plot. This structure keeps the reader engaged and intrigued as they piece together the puzzle of the characters’ lives and their interconnectedness.

However, the introspective pacing may not appeal to those seeking a faster-paced narrative, and limited character development of secondary characters can also be seen. Plus, I feel the story could have had a more definitive and conclusive ending. Ultimately, “Undertow” offers a thought-provoking journey of self-discovery and the complexities of human connection.

In a nutshell

In a nutshell, Undertow is a powerful and beautifully written novel that explores themes of love, loss, family, and the complexities of human relationships. Janhavi Barua’s masterful storytelling and her ability to create a deep emotional resonance make this book a must-read for anyone who appreciates literary fiction.

Recommend? YES! Experience beautiful prose, deep emotions, and vivid imagery with Undertow.

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